Four black parole officers allege their civil rights were violated when they were held at gunpoint and detained by police officers last year
The parole officers have filed a civil lawsuit seeking unspecified damages
A representative for the defendant police officers said their actions were reasonable
The dashcam video shows a police officer driving his vehicle in the wrong lane, then swerving sharply before stopping in the middle of the road in Upstate New York.
The officer exits the car and draws his weapon.
The ensuing moments are when parole officer Mario Alexandre said the police officers participating in the Rockland County stop violated his civil rights, along with those of three of his fellow parole officers.
“I was violently pulled out of the vehicle, and I was slammed against the vehicle,” Alexandre told CNN’s Jason Carroll.
Alexandre and his colleagues – Sheila Penister, Annette Thomas-Prince and Samuel Washington – are all black New York State Parole officers. The parole officers have filed a civil lawsuit, alleging that they were racially profiled by the white officers and that their detainment was unnecessarily malicious and reckless.
The parole officers contend that the Ramapo Police Department and the city “failed to adequately train … its police officers concerning the rights of citizens, in particular against racial bias/profiling and the use of force,” according to the lawsuit.
Ramapo Town Assistant Attorney Dennis Lynch said called the actions of the police officers “reasonable under the circumstances” and that the “parole officers had not notified the town that they would be in town.”
On the morning of April 21, 2014, the parole officers were on their way back from attempting to execute an arrest warrant when they were stopped on the side of the road by police officers, some of whom had their weapons drawn.
The parole officers state that they were all wearing their department-issued bullet proof vests with their gold badges displayed prominently around their necks. Additionally, they said their car had an official New York State placard displayed conspicuously on the dashboard, according to court documents.
Alexandre and his colleagues were ordered to “raise their arms high in the air.” Alexandre stated he was “punched” by a police lieutenant and was “forced out of his vehicle despite having identified himself as a parole officer,” the documents state.
Penister said that when she attempted to show her New York State ID to a police sergeant, he “became enraged and approached her in a threatening manner with his hand held on the butt of his gun,” court documents state. When all parole officers were identified, they allege they were still forcibly detained and not permitted to leave.
Penister told CNN that the incident has caused her to have anxiety attacks when she sees other police officers, despite wearing a similar uniform herself.
“It’s still the anxiety I have, that I’ve never had before. I mean, an officer with anxiety, when they see another officer?”
All four parole officers have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to their attorney, Bonita Zelman.
The police officers involved in the case are affiliated with the Ramapo Police Department and the Suffern Police Department, both in Rockland County, New York.
The police officers said they were simply responding to a 911 call, alerting them to “four big people” with “bullet proof vests on” riding in an unmarked vehicle.
The 911 caller did not identify any of the officers by race and told the dispatcher that she didn’t notice any identifying police jackets on any of the people in the car, according to a transcript of the 911 call.
Despite the allegations, the dashcam video made public by police does not appear to show Alexandre being slammed against a vehicle, though the parole officers say the incident started before the video begins.
Though the parole officers state otherwise, Lynch said the parole officers were “free to proceed on their way” promptly after their identification.
“It’s easy to second guess the split second decisions of police officers on the scene. Not being cautious enough at times can result in a Brian Moore situation,” said Lynch, referring to the NYPD officer who was fatally shot Sunday by a suspect he was attempting to question.
Zelman would not indicate the amount they were suing for, but told CNN that at the very least, the officers should be disciplined for their actions.
CNN’s Laura Dolan and Jason Carroll contributed to this report.